Tag Archives | preserves in action

Preserves in Action: Whole Wheat Crepes

three rolled crepes

I taught myself to make crepes when I was in high school from a recipe in my mom’s fabric-bound copy of the Joy of Cooking. I was home sick from school (though truly, I wasn’t particularly ill) and needing something to do with my time, turned to the kitchen for entertainment.

crepe batter

The first crepe was terrible (I’ve since learned that the first one always is), but I soon found the right flame and amount of batter to pour and eventually made myself a satisfying stack of paper-thin pancakes. I don’t remember exactly how I ate them, but imagine that either peanut butter or maple syrup was involved.

second crepe

These days, I make crepes far less often than I’d like, but when I do remember to blend up a batch of batter, I am so very happy to have them on my plate. I’d like to make them a more regular part of my culinary rotation, because they make such a glorious vehicle for jams and fruit butters.

stack of crepes

I mostly still follow the Joy of Cooking recipe (they’re called French Pancakes in my edition), but do make a couple adjustments. I use whole wheat pastry flour in place of all purpose and blend the batter using my Vitamix to ensure a lump-free cake. When I want to make a batch that can be used in a savory situation, I omit the vanilla extract and powdered sugar.

crepe with lemon curd

Normally, I post these Preserves in Action recipes on Thursdays, but since today is known in some quarters as Pancake Day, I thought I’d move this one up a couple days for the sake of timeliness. I’m so rarely coordinated when it comes to holidays such as these, but there’s a first time for everything!

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Preserves in Action: Homemade Tomato Soup

finished tomato soup

We are in the throes of another winter storm here in the Philadelphia area. Schools are closed, roads are impassable, and the sidewalks are treacherous. I don’t find the weather too much of an inconvenience, as I always work from my dining room table or my desk behind the television and thanks to my canning habit, I can go for days without needing to grocery shop.

roasted tomatoes packed in oil

But the conditions have been bad enough that Scott’s office has been closed at least three times since the beginning of January. He was home again today and around noon, managed to look both plaintive and hopeful as he said, “Do we have anything good for lunch?”

There’s been a bit of chatter on the Food in Jars Google Community page about tomato soup and so I suggested the classic pairing of toasted cheese sandwiches and bowls of warm soup.

pouring tomato puree

This qualified as good in his book and so I got out a small soup pot, pulled down a jar of tomato puree, and got to cooking. I started by browning 1/2 a minced onion in 1 tablespoon of butter. While the onions sizzled, I chopped up a few of my precious slow roasted tomatoes and added them to the pot.

I’ve taken to keeping a jar of these tomatoes in the fridge, packed in olive oil (a good layer of oil keeps them from getting moldy). It makes them more readily available for use than if they’re all frozen and so I use them more often in my daily cooking. They do add such a fabulous punch of concentrated tomato flavor.

February 13

Then I added 1 quart of the tomato puree (simply tomatoes run through a press and simmered until slightly thickened prior to canning), 1 cup of half and half (milk would have been fine too, but since I had the good stuff, I went with it), 2 tablespoons of honey, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

I simmered the mixture of a few more minutes and then used to an immersion blender to smooth out the lumps and bits of onion. It was perfect for the chilly day and we both had two bowls.

For those of you also living through this latest round of weather, I do hope you’re staying warm and well-fed!

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Preserves in Action: Shredded Chicken Chili

pulled chicken chili

On Wednesday, I wrote about how to make your home canned beans from dried (have you entered the giveaway sponsored by Mighty Nest yet?). Since so many of you mentioned in the comments that you like to use canned beans in chili, I thought that I’d share the basic chili recipe I use all the time. It uses 2-3 jars of beans and at least 2 quarts of preserved tomatoes.

When I have the time, I braise boneless skinless chicken thighs in puree of tomatoes, onions, garlic cloves, and fresh cilantro leaves until they shred easily. If I’m running short on time, I skip the braised chicken and instead just stir a pound ground turkey meat directly into the cooking chili (in that case, I add both jars/cans of tomatoes directly to the cooking chili). Of course, another option is to skip the meat entirely, but it would make my husband sad if I did that in our household.

pulled braised chicken

Let’s have a word about this shredded chicken. It’s an awesome addition to chili, but that’s not all it’s good for. I’ve been known to eat it wrapped in a tortilla or spooned over some braised greens. It’s incredibly flavorful and easy to make. I’ve taken to keeping a batch stashed in our freezer for lazy nights. Oh! One last thing about this chicken. Sometimes the onions make it a little bit sweet and so I’ll add either a splash of lime juice or the brine from a jar of pickled jalapeños to balance things out.

My apologies for the less than stellar photos in this post. I made this chili for dinner one night and forgot entirely to take pretty pictures. I snapped the image at the top of the post (it was the very last bowl) just moments before I ate it for a quick solo dinner. And we all know, the total lack of natural light in my kitchen makes photography hard, even on the most lovely natural light days.

But enough of that. On to the recipe!

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Preserves in Action: Stovetop Toasties for a Snow Day

Toas-Tite and KwiKi-Pi

Like most of the northeast, Philadelphia woke up this morning to a thick layer of snow. Though I didn’t venture outside to measure, friends in the next neighborhood up from ours had 8 inches on their back deck and I hear that there were some areas that got even more. I had to cancel the class I was scheduled to teach and Scott’s office was closed, so we hunkered down for a cozy snow day.

January 3

Thankfully, I braved the pre-storm crowds at Trader Joe’s yesterday and so the fridge was fully loaded for a day at home (it was my first full shop since getting back to town on Monday, so things would have been pretty stark otherwise). As we contemplated lunch, Scott made an off-hand suggestion that I should write a post about using jams on a snow day.

sandwich prep

As soon as he said it, I realized that it was the perfect day to pull out my old stovetop sandwich makers and toast up a few jam-filled treats. I’ve had these two pie/sandwich irons for ages now and don’t use them nearly enough. My mom grew up making sandwiches in a Toas-Tite at her aunt’s house, and so when she spotted on at an antique mall some years back, scooped it up and gave it to me for Christmas. The KwiKi-Pi (don’t you just love the name?) cost a quarter at a Lancaster County garage sale some years back.

building a sandwich in the Toas-Tite

There’s nothing fancy about either of these gadgets, though I will say that the I find that the Toas-Tite delivers a better finished product than the KwiKi-Pi (it’s heavier and seals better). There are other vintage brands out there, like Nutbrown Sandwich Toaster and Jem Toaster, and there a handful of companies who still make these kinds of irons (like this round one). There are also electric sandwich makers that do the same sort of thing, but I like these lo-fi ones better.

Toas-Tite on the stove

The way it works is that you take a couple pieces of bread, flatten them out a little with a rolling pin to create a little extra filling space, and lightly butter the outsides like you would a grilled cheese. You fit the first slice into the bottom of the mold (don’t worry about the overhanging bread yet), and fill. Go light to the fillings so that the sandwich doesn’t ooze during cooking.

sandwich makers on the stove

Once the fillings are in, you line up the top piece of bread and close the Toas-Tite down. Then, using a paring knife, cut away the overhanging bread, taking special care around the hinges, as that spot can sometimes trap some large crumbs (save those crusts for homemade bread crumbs!).

Because I have a pokey old electric stove, I preheat the smaller burners to medium-high  while I construct the sandwiches. When the burners are hot, you just lay the sandwich makers directly onto the burners. If you have a gas stove, you proceed in much the same way, though you shouldn’t need to preheat. Turning regularly, your sandwich should be done in four or five minutes.

finished Toas-Tite sandwich

For my first sandwich, I used a combination of prosciutto, shredded cheese, and tart plum jam on whole wheat. For the second round, I flattened a couple hot dog buns that Scott had picked up while I was away and stuffed them with herbed goat cheese and apricot jam. Of course, you can fill your sandwiches with anything you want, but keep the number of ingredients fairly low. Any more than three or four ingredients and the flavors start to get muddy.

finished KwiKi-Pi sandwich

I realize that in some ways, these are nothing more than homemade Uncrustables, done with fancy ingredients. But made with kids, or on a snow day when you just feel like a kid, they’re a very fun treat. And they’re such a good way to use up your jams and chutneys in a slightly different way.

prosciutto, cheese, and jam sandwich

How are you guys using your preserves these days?

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Preserves in Action: Baguette with Ricotta, Fig Jam, and Baby Arugula

baguette with ricotta, fig jam, arugula

On Monday night, I took a cheese class at Metropolitan Bakery with Madame Fromage and Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm (she is one of my very favorite Pennsylvania cheesemakers). It came just after a weekend in which I had taught and demo-ed enough to make my voice go hoarse, so it was doubly nice to sit back and let someone else do the teaching and explaining.

We began the tasting with an orienting sip of Birchrun’s raw milk, just hours from the cow and then, starting with fromage blanc, we sampled our way through six cheeses. There were slices of baguette and French berry roll from the Metropolitan ovens, and at the end, a little splash of madeira to drink with slices of Birchrun blue. It was one of the nicest evenings I’ve had in a while.

baguette with ricotta, fig jam, arugula

At the end of the class, we were packed off into a chilly night with warm cheeks and fresh baguettes. Scott is currently off carbs, so the work of eating this pointy loaf has been entirely mine (truly, it’s not a hardship). This morning, when I opened the paper bag, it was quite hard. Happily, I have a trick for refreshing bread that always works with Metropolitan’s loaves (they use a long fermentation period, which builds the interior structure and makes it more resilient).

I hacked off a chunk, sliced it down the middle and ran the pieces quickly under a dribbling kitchen faucet. I toasted the slices twice, once to help dry them out and again to give them some color. The end result is four-day-old toasted baguette that is flavorful, with just the right amount of crunch and chew.

Now, here’s where the Preserves in Action component comes in. I spread the toasts with fresh ricotta cheese (what I really longed for was Sue’s fromage blanc, but Claudio’s ricotta is a more than acceptable substitute), dolloped on fig jam, and piled up baby arugula. I added a few turns of a pepper grinder and breakfast was ready. This meal could easily serve as lunch, or if cut into smaller pieces, as a starter for a party.

Curious why I know so much about this bakery’s practices? Many moons ago, Scott and I used to make an online cooking show called Fork You and in one episode, we visited Metropolitan’s baking facility and made bread with James Barrett, one of the founders. The old blog appears to be corrupted, but the video is still available on Viddler’s blog if you’re interested in finding out more about them (and seeing the glasses I was wearing five years ago).

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Preserves in Action: Pumpkin Butter Oats

pumpkin butter oats

A few weeks back, I unearthed a jar of this pumpkin butter from the far corner of my freezer. Since it was going on a year old, I pulled it out and have been making a point of eating my way through it (truly, it’s no great hardship). There are a number of  ways to use pumpkin butter to good effect, but my favorite is to stir a heaping spoonful into a pot of creamy morning oats. It’s both seasonal and delicious.

I’m not sure if this is common knowledge or not, but there is a secret to making creamy oats. The trick is to start with cold water and then cook the oatmeal over very low heat for ten or fifteen minutes. The slow heat gives the oats a chance to soften and release their starches. If you start with hot water and cook quickly, the oats never get a chance to soften and you wind up with a bowl of stiff oat flakes in runny grey liquid. Not my idea of an appealing breakfast.

For a single serving, I start with a scant 1/2 cup of old fashioned rolled oats, a generous cup of water, and a pinch of sea salt. I stir that together in a little pot, put a lid on, and set it over the lowest heat my stove can manage. While the oats heat, I check email, make tea, and generally putter around until the water around the edges of the pan is beginning to bubble just a little bit.

Once I see signs of simmer, I turn the heat up and stir vigorously. The water suddenly thickens and the oats soften. I stir in about two tablespoons of pumpkin butter (or apple pie filling or pear butter) and a splash of milk. When the oatmeal looks finished, I pull it off the heat and add a few toasted walnuts and some kind of dried fruit (right now, I’m partial to dried cherries).

It makes a really great autumn breakfast and uses up those jars of preserves to very good effect.

 

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